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POVERTY: PHILIPPINES‘ ACHILLES HEEL

December 16, 2015

POVERTY: PHILIPPINES‘ ACHILLES HEEL

 

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

 

Poverty is the Achilles’ heel of the Philippine state, and will be so for at least two (2) more decades. Amid the appreciable growth the economy has sustained so far, with the national economy doubling in just eight (8) years during the incumbency of president Gloria Arroyo, poverty remains very high.

 

If we go by the yardsticks of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the World Bank, the Philippines has been performing fairly well on wealth production as a whole, so much that the country graduated to a middle income status by the turn of the century. No more a poor economy by world standards, yet the country’s poverty increased from 28% in 2001 (when Arroyo took over the presidency) to 33% today (per latest government statistics).

 

Paradoxical, come to think of it, that while the economy has been growing and had moved to middle income status, more people have become poorer. Tough, very tough, is the task of mining for the ‘gini in the bottle’ that would reduce poverty considerably to a negligible 5% or less, a level that is easily manageable and where state and communities can simply decide to fully subsidize the remaining poor.

 

Whether the Philippines can meet the UN’s Millenium Development Goal of cutting poverty by half in 2015 seems much clearer now to social forecasters: the dream is elusive and unattainable. Not even if the economy will double again from mid-2009 to 2015 which is a most likely development.

 

The Philippines’ poorest happens to be the rural populations, notably the fisherfolk sector where malnutrition runs the highest rate (2/3 of children/families). Rural population is now down to 34% or 1/3 of the population, while the urban peoples comprise 66% or 2/3. Urban to rural poverty ratio is 1:2.5, meaning that for every 1 poor person in the cities & towns, there’s an equivalent of 2.5 persons in the countrysides.

 

The message is clear to the next government (formed by the new president after the May polls this year) that the attack zone on poverty should be the rural population. Both antipoverty and anti-hunger programs should be initiated at very high levels in the countryside to be able to bring down total poverty by a large degree.

 

Failure to solve rural poverty in the long run redounds to perpetuating insurgency. Even if the present insurgent groups would concur peace pacts with the state, new insurgent groups will emerge again in the foreseeable future should the rural folks remain paupers.

 

Urbanization is now moving up, and with its growing eminence has come the rise of new cities. Citification has seen the incomes of communities treble by leaps and bounds, thus permitting the same communities to spend on infrastructures and social development.

 

Left to themselves, without massive migrations from rural folks, the cities can accumulate enormous income surpluses to solve unemployment, poverty, and malnutrition (both hunger and obesity). Philanthropic groups consequently rise from civil society and market players, and boost surplus production for solving poverty.

 

However, such is not the case even as the migration of the poor from the countryside to the cities continues in steady waves. So this brings us all back to the challenge of solving poverty right at the backyards where the poorest are most concentrated. This means that the food producers shouldn’t be left out in the development game, even as rural development should be brought to its next level.

 

Goal-wise, the realistic target is to reduce poverty from 33% in 2009 to 25% by 2015, or an average of 1.33% reduction per annum. Means-wise, an appreciable mix of good governance, right socio-economic policies, and strengthening of institutions would do a long way to bring down poverty altogether in the short run.

 

Urban population will grow to 70% around 2015, while rural population will go down further to 30%. With lower rural populations to manage by then, there is no more reason for government not to be able to do something to solve poverty. And we say government, because the increase in poverty largely came from governance-related factors such as poor absorptive capacity (to handle large budgets), inefficiency, graft, poor inter-governmental coordination, and low political will to pursue audacious solutions to daunting problems.

 

In 1989, this analyst wrote an article “Prospects of Poverty Alleviation in the 1990s,” a piece that I delivered as a symposium lecture at the University of the East (Prof. Randy David was also a speaker). At that time, poverty was a high of 49%, while urban to rural poverty was 1:2.1.

 

Since 1989, we have seen poverty reduced from 49% to its present level of 33% (a 5% increase since 2001 though), although rural poverty moved up paradoxically during the same period. Poverty reduction is not really impossible, as evidenced by the huge reduction across a 20-year period. Bringing it down further to 25% by 2015 is a doable target.

 

So let us see how the nation will fair under the next government of the republic (after May polls), when we see a new set of political leaders and cabinet members installed to power. As I’ve mentioned in earlier articles, my standpoint is that a nationalist coalition, such as what the present candidate Sen. Manny Villar, is most equipped with policy paradigm and tools to deal with the Achilles heel of pauperism, aside from the competence and visionary acumen of the noblesse senator.

 

By nationalist, I mean that of moving towards a regulated market and fair trade, with high propensity for ‘physical economy’ policies. We can no more return to the days of liberalization policies that saw the economy crash down in ’83-’85, stagnate for a time and grow again before hitting the next recession in ’97, and finally move up to middle income status only after a turtle pace struggle taking three (3) decades.

 

Liberalism and its propensity to be pro-Big Business and Big Landlord is a big no in our fight against poverty, whether in the Philippines and other nations of the globe. In my country, nationalism is the antidote paradigm and social technology watershed to reverse decades of liberal policies and solution to poverty. I’ve been echoing this theme since my teenage years yet, and remains steadily anchored on it.

 

[Philippines, 20 March 2010]

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POVERTY: PHILIPPINES‘ ACHILLES HEEL

December 16, 2015

POVERTY: PHILIPPINES‘ ACHILLES HEEL

 

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

 

Poverty is the Achilles’ heel of the Philippine state, and will be so for at least two (2) more decades. Amid the appreciable growth the economy has sustained so far, with the national economy doubling in just eight (8) years during the incumbency of president Gloria Arroyo, poverty remains very high.

 

If we go by the yardsticks of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the World Bank, the Philippines has been performing fairly well on wealth production as a whole, so much that the country graduated to a middle income status by the turn of the century. No more a poor economy by world standards, yet the country’s poverty increased from 28% in 2001 (when Arroyo took over the presidency) to 33% today (per latest government statistics).

 

Paradoxical, come to think of it, that while the economy has been growing and had moved to middle income status, more people have become poorer. Tough, very tough, is the task of mining for the ‘gini in the bottle’ that would reduce poverty considerably to a negligible 5% or less, a level that is easily manageable and where state and communities can simply decide to fully subsidize the remaining poor.

 

Whether the Philippines can meet the UN’s Millenium Development Goal of cutting poverty by half in 2015 seems much clearer now to social forecasters: the dream is elusive and unattainable. Not even if the economy will double again from mid-2009 to 2015 which is a most likely development.

 

The Philippines’ poorest happens to be the rural populations, notably the fisherfolk sector where malnutrition runs the highest rate (2/3 of children/families). Rural population is now down to 34% or 1/3 of the population, while the urban peoples comprise 66% or 2/3. Urban to rural poverty ratio is 1:2.5, meaning that for every 1 poor person in the cities & towns, there’s an equivalent of 2.5 persons in the countrysides.

 

The message is clear to the next government (formed by the new president after the May polls this year) that the attack zone on poverty should be the rural population. Both antipoverty and anti-hunger programs should be initiated at very high levels in the countryside to be able to bring down total poverty by a large degree.

 

Failure to solve rural poverty in the long run redounds to perpetuating insurgency. Even if the present insurgent groups would concur peace pacts with the state, new insurgent groups will emerge again in the foreseeable future should the rural folks remain paupers.

 

Urbanization is now moving up, and with its growing eminence has come the rise of new cities. Citification has seen the incomes of communities treble by leaps and bounds, thus permitting the same communities to spend on infrastructures and social development.

 

Left to themselves, without massive migrations from rural folks, the cities can accumulate enormous income surpluses to solve unemployment, poverty, and malnutrition (both hunger and obesity). Philanthropic groups consequently rise from civil society and market players, and boost surplus production for solving poverty.

 

However, such is not the case even as the migration of the poor from the countryside to the cities continues in steady waves. So this brings us all back to the challenge of solving poverty right at the backyards where the poorest are most concentrated. This means that the food producers shouldn’t be left out in the development game, even as rural development should be brought to its next level.

 

Goal-wise, the realistic target is to reduce poverty from 33% in 2009 to 25% by 2015, or an average of 1.33% reduction per annum. Means-wise, an appreciable mix of good governance, right socio-economic policies, and strengthening of institutions would do a long way to bring down poverty altogether in the short run.

 

Urban population will grow to 70% around 2015, while rural population will go down further to 30%. With lower rural populations to manage by then, there is no more reason for government not to be able to do something to solve poverty. And we say government, because the increase in poverty largely came from governance-related factors such as poor absorptive capacity (to handle large budgets), inefficiency, graft, poor inter-governmental coordination, and low political will to pursue audacious solutions to daunting problems.

 

In 1989, this analyst wrote an article “Prospects of Poverty Alleviation in the 1990s,” a piece that I delivered as a symposium lecture at the University of the East (Prof. Randy David was also a speaker). At that time, poverty was a high of 49%, while urban to rural poverty was 1:2.1.

 

Since 1989, we have seen poverty reduced from 49% to its present level of 33% (a 5% increase since 2001 though), although rural poverty moved up paradoxically during the same period. Poverty reduction is not really impossible, as evidenced by the huge reduction across a 20-year period. Bringing it down further to 25% by 2015 is a doable target.

 

So let us see how the nation will fair under the next government of the republic (after May polls), when we see a new set of political leaders and cabinet members installed to power. As I’ve mentioned in earlier articles, my standpoint is that a nationalist coalition, such as what the present candidate Sen. Manny Villar, is most equipped with policy paradigm and tools to deal with the Achilles heel of pauperism, aside from the competence and visionary acumen of the noblesse senator.

 

By nationalist, I mean that of moving towards a regulated market and fair trade, with high propensity for ‘physical economy’ policies. We can no more return to the days of liberalization policies that saw the economy crash down in ’83-’85, stagnate for a time and grow again before hitting the next recession in ’97, and finally move up to middle income status only after a turtle pace struggle taking three (3) decades.

 

Liberalism and its propensity to be pro-Big Business and Big Landlord is a big no in our fight against poverty, whether in the Philippines and other nations of the globe. In my country, nationalism is the antidote paradigm and social technology watershed to reverse decades of liberal policies and solution to poverty. I’ve been echoing this theme since my teenage years yet, and remains steadily anchored on it.

 

[Philippines, 20 March 2010]

LARGE CLASS, MAD DISCOURSE: SAME ROOTS

November 19, 2015

LARGE CLASS, MAD DISCOURSE: SAME ROOTS

 

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

 

Magandang hapon! Good afternoon!

 

Classes have resumed here in Manila/Philippines, and our campuses are again swarming with pupils, students, teachers. Focused on their tasks, the same stakeholders are barely aware of what’s going on in the world around them, a world that is changing fast at confusing rate.

 

While the rugs under our feet our changing, the old context of large classes (class sizes of 100-250) are still in vogue in many universities worldwide. Some other universities that may have abolished them in the past, are re-instituting the large class platform.

 

As I’ve said in a previous article, the large class platform belongs to the past ages of medievalism and industrialism. To implement it now, at this time, is a regressive decision.

 

The large class, which unconsciously glues students to the ‘Herd instinct’, is anathema to the overall evolutionary movement of the human psyche towards greater individuation. University education is supposedly an opportunity field for the flourishing of that individuation.

 

The ‘mad discourse’ is finding expression in many venues today. The large class platform feeds inputs to the mad discourse, and is subtly rooted in it in fact. Its rationale hides under the rubric of technocratese language, but any sharp observer will easily unveil the illusion and show the large class platform’s connection to the ‘mad discourse’.

 

Imagine if all students are subjected to the same large classes, where they cannot air feedbacks or questions at all as they are consigned to passive receivers of inputs from a lecture professor. Imagine exposing freshmen students to this platform for 4-5 years, and assess the degeneration of the same students into the hovels of passivity.

 

Such a regimentation is just but one step short of what the Phase III cybernetics is up to these days: chipping humans. Phase III cybernetics had worked out to erase the dividing line between human behavior and machine behavior, with practical uses aimed at chipping all humans in the future.

 

The same chipped humans can then be put under the control of mega-computer systems, their behavior eventually reprogrammable to make them more in tune with what the System demands. They can be sent to war fronts as armies and technicians, and will experience no fear as fear will be deleted or subjugated by mega-control commands from their own psyche.

 

Wars and police states of the near future will be easily justified with every technocratese language conceivable, rendering them as typical ‘mad discourse’ in the argot of Michel Foucault. Mad, in that the erasure of the boundary between reason and the irrational has been effectively erased or deleted.

 

If there is anything that university policy makers must do now, it is to abolish all large classes while there is still time. Globally, we concerned citizens are doing what we can to deter moves by elites to install nazi-type regimes in the West, leading to a global state later that will be in need of compliant citizens.

 

Let us all do our tasks now to take down school platforms that will be the launching pads for compliant humans who can be chipped in couples of years’ time. The VeriChip by Verizon Corp is now out, and before 2015 a more perfected prototype will be out, ready to be implanted to humans via syringe (by trained doctors/medics).

 

We still have the time to act, to note. Any decision that infringes on human liberties is dangerously fascistic, such as re-instituting or maintaining large classes.

 

Failing to act in time, we shall watch in horror as new ‘das boots’ kids will be churned out from our youth, commanded via chips to participate in building a Draconian deux ex machina of the near future. And they’re products of our universities, products of large classes.

 

By then, I will be having the last laugh. With resonating guffaws will I declare “I told you so.”

 

 

[Philippines, 27 June 2012]

 

TRADE & HUNGER: SALVING HUNGER VIA TRADE POLICY

August 18, 2014

TRADE & HUNGER: SALVING HUNGER VIA TRADE POLICY
Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Let me continue on the issue of hunger, which many politicians are raising howls this early in time for the 2010 polls. The tendency right now, with politicians’ short-sightedness and poverty of wisdom, is that hunger will be perpetuated and sustained even long after the same politicians are all dead.

In the study on fair trade & food security I did for the national center for fair trade and food security (KAISAMPALAD), I already raised the howl about hunger and recommended policy and institutional intervention.

Since other experts, notably nutritionists, already highlighted many factors to hunger and under-nutrition, such as lifestyle problems, economics, and lack of appropriate public policy, I preferred to highlight in that study the factor of trade on food insecurity and the hunger malaise. Let me cite some cases here to show how trade and hunger are directly related:

• Immediately after the termination of the sugar quota of the USA for Philippine-sourced sugar in the early 80s, the domestic sugar industry collapsed. 500,000 hungry sugar workers and their dependents had to line up for food, a tragedy and calamity that shamed the country before the international community. Till these days, the trauma caused by that ‘line up for porridge’ solution remains among those children of those days who are now adults, one of whom became my student at the University of the Philippines Manila campus (a girl).

• Two years ago, a cargo ship carrying PETRON oil to the Visayas got struck with leaks and a tragic spillage covering wide swaths of sea waters. The island province of Guimaras suffered catastrophically from that incident, its economy was as bad as a war-torn economy for one year. Its marginal fishers couldn’t fish for at least one year as the sea spillage had to cleaned up. The hunger and under-nutrition caused by that tragedy is indubitably related to a trade activity: oil being transported to a predefined destination.

• At the instance of trade liberalization on fruits upon the implementation of a series of GATT-related and IMF-World Bank sanctioned measures that began during the Cory Aquino regime, the massive entry of apples and fruit imports immediately crashed tens of thousands of producers of local mangoes, guavas and oranges, as domestic consumers (with their colonial flair for anything imported) chose to buy fruit imports in place of local ones. Economic dislocation and hunger instantly resulted from the trade liberalization policy.

The list could go on and on, as we go from one economic and/or population to another. What is clear here is that trade measures and activities do directly lead to food insecurity and the attendant problems of malnutrition and hunger. In the case of the Guimaras oil spillage calamity, humanitarian hands such as the Visayan provinces and Manila’s mayors’ offices, added to private and NGO groups, quickly moved to help the affected residents. Of course the PETRON itself took responsibility for the spillage, clean up, and offered humanitarian help as well. But did trade stakeholders ever paid for the hunger malaise suffered by the sugar workers and families, fruit small planters, and other families in the aftermath of shifting trade policy?

A strategic solution to trade-related hunger would be to constitute a Hunger Fund, whose funds shall come from at least 0.1% of all tariffs (on imports). A 0.1% tariff alone today translates to P800 million approximately, or close to $20 Million. This can serve as an insurance of sorts for trade-induced hunger. The funds will then be administered by an appropriate body, comprising of representatives from diverse sectors and headed by a nutritional scientist of international repute (e.g Dr. Florencio) rather than by a politician or ignoramus species.

Furthermore, insurance groups here can begin to innovate on food production-related insurance to cover force majeure damages. Cyclone insurance and earthquake insurance would be strong options for agricultural producers, even as other options can be designed most urgently.

I would admit that trade-related hunger and its solutions are practicable for the productive sectors of our population. There are 2.3 million street people today who comprise the relatively ‘unproductive sectors’, who all suffer from hunger. This need to be tackled as a distinct sector and problem, and discussed separately.

[Phiippines, 28 July 2008]
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MANAGING RISK FUELS PROSPERITY, AFRICA RE-TOOL!

October 27, 2011

MANAGING RISK FUELS PROSPERITY, AFRICA RE-TOOL!

 

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

 

African development stakeholders better go through a rethink of their development strategies and frameworks during the past decades. The challenge is for African experts and specialists to re-tool and configure new ‘best practices’ in aid of facilitating risk management as framework and strategy for achieving development goals.

 

The global framework is that of the Millenium Development Goal or MDG which most member countries of the UN committed to support and enact. The 2015 deadline nears, which makes it so tight a schedule to put into practice the emerging frameworks, strategies and tools. Chances are that the MDG goals may me achieved below the expected results or ‘barely passing rate’.

 

Below is a reportage about Africa’s poor nations’ chances to manage risks as a way to achieving the MDG.

 

[Philippines, 28 October 2011]

 

Support: http://www.beta.undp.org/undp/en/home/presscenter/pressreleases/2011/10/06/helping-africa-s-poor-to-manage-risks-key-to-region-s-progress-says-new-report-.html

 

Helping Africa’s poor to manage risks key to region’s progress, says new report

06 October 2011

New York — African countries should enhance the strength and resilience of their poor populations through targeted social safeguards, according to “Assessing Progress in Africa toward the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)”, a region-specific report released today.

This year’s annual report shows that such policies will help in the region’s steady progress on some of the MDGs, eight internationally-agreed targets to reduce poverty, hunger, maternal and child deaths, disease, gender inequality and environmental degradation by 2015.

In spite of this progress, recent food, fuel and financial crises, coupled with threats from climate change and the recent instability in North Africa are likely to affect the region’s MDG achievement.

“We urge policy-makers to recalibrate their social protection programs, so that they are perceived not as handouts but rather as measures to strengthen productive assets,” said the authors of the foreword to the report.

According to the report, national schemes, such as pensions, safety nets and school feeding programmes, can impact positively on several MDGs by addressing the immediate needs of the most vulnerable, providing them with labor market skills and safeguards against relapses into poverty.

The document lays out a number of success stories in the area of policy, including Algeria’s social protection scheme that contributed to reducing unemployment from 30 to 10 percent between 2000 and 2009, and Ethiopia’s 2005-2008 public works projects that led to construction of nearly 4,500 rural classrooms and improved food security for 7.8 million citizens.

Ghana’s National Health Insurance Scheme, covering 67 percent of the population, cut out-of-pocket expenditure for health by 50 percent. In Malawi, agricultural subsidies and outreach services resulted in an increase in the number of food-secure households, from 67 to 99 percent between 2005 and 2009.

Such schemes provide immediate protection for the poor while also making a longer term contribution to creating dynamic economies and more resilient societies, according to the report published by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the African Union Commission (AUC).

Tracking MDGs

Thanks to policy innovations and social protection schemes, Africa has made steady progress on a number of targets. For example, it increased primary school enrolment rates from 65 to 83 percent between 1999 and 2008.

In addition, 80 percent of the 36 African countries that have data for 1990 to 2010 increased the number of women in parliament during that period; and HIV/AIDS prevalence rates have dropped from just under six percent in 2001 to five percent in 2009.

However, while all regions of the world made progress on reducing maternal mortality, Africa faces a formidable task on this indicator, with several countries showing averages of 1,000 deaths per 100,000.

In addition, although the population with access to safe drinking water increased from 56 to 65 percent between 1990 and 2008, the rate of progress is insufficient for the continent to reach the 2015 MDG target of reducing by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water.

Progress on some of the MDGs may have stalled or been reversed by the impact of the global economic crisis on Sub-Saharan Africa where the proportion of those earning less than US$1.25 a day decreased from 67 to 58 percent between 1998 and 2008.

More than 20 percent of young people in North Africa, for example, remained unemployed in 2008, while more than 75 percent of the labor force in Sub-Saharan Africa had vulnerable jobs in 2009.

In addition to carefully targeted and fiscally sound social safeguards, the report says more attention should be focused on designing strategies that promote job-rich growth and increase agricultural productivity.

To access the report, please visit http://www.undp.org/africa/mdg/

Contact Information

Ethiopia:

UNECA – Yinka Adeyemi, Tel: +251-11-5443537, yadeyemi@uneca.org,

AUC – Noureddine Mezni, Mobile: +251911511723

NewYork: UNDP – NicolasDouillet, +1.212.906.5937, nicolas.douillet@undp.org

Tunisia: AfDB – Pénélope Pontet deFouquières, +216 71 10 12 50, p.pontetdefouquieres@afdb.org

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APPLAUSE TO UNIVERSITY OF SANTO TOMAS ON ITS QUADRICENTENNIAL

February 16, 2011

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

This writer hereby extends Big Kudos to the Dominican-run University of Santo Tomas on its 400th Anniversary!

The University of Santo Tomas or UST, established 400 years ago in the Intramuros district of (old) Manila, has finally grown, matured, and reached international acclaim as an institution of higher learning. It had added milestones to its earlier feat as the oldest university in the Philippines, which renders it worthy of the accolades on its quadricentennial.

I still recall as a young school boy in the 1960s, that my teachers as well as history & geography textbook authors cited the UST as the nest of brilliant youth who later became great minds. Our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, obtained his first level of university education from the UST (he took up advanced studies in Europe after the UST stint).

More patriots followed after the footsteps of Dr. Rizal later. The late Manuel L. Quezon, president of the country during the USA’s colonial occupation, was among them. A visionary whose thoughts were to linger long after he was gone, Quezon is among the great patriots of the motherland. He underwent collegiate education in the noble UST.

The UST did not only churn out great men in past eras. In this current context, we have the likes of Bienvenido Lumbera, one of the literary giants of the ASEAN and a National Artist, among UST’s alumni. And so is Brilliante Mendoza, CANNES Film Festival awardee as Best Director, among the long list of upcoming luminaries of the Philippines and the ASEAN.

If there is any coterie of minds that I would give due credit for re-inventing UST that enabled it to be among Asia-Pacific’s top 200 universities, it is the Filipino Dominicans and the Filipino professors who resonated with the innovative designs of their priestly sponsors. The new breed of Dominicans dared to transform the university’s teaching force from one of purely teaching tasks to one of scholarly research faculty broke the long tradition and moved the UST out of stasis.

Without meaning to denigrate the White Dominicans from Europe who dominated UST’s echelon for too long a time, I would have to state candidly that it was during their stewardship that UST stagnated. Thus, it was known for its oldness bereft of the qualitative substance of being a progenitor of new philosophies, arts movements, and scientific R & D.

UST’s faculty was merely tasked to teach, and was assigned huge teaching loads (e.g. teaching 24 units), hence disabling them from engaging in productive research and/or artistic productions. It was during the stagnation phase that the much younger universities—University of the Philippines, Ateneo De Manila University, De La Salle University—became international universities, breaching the UST’s records by several notches.

I asked some pals of mine in the 80s and early 90s—who were teaching in UST—to share their own opinion regarding the relative stagnation of the UST. Without batting eyelashes, they blamed the over-bearing and subtly racist predominance of White Dominicans for the long stasis. Accordingly, the latter were of the mindset that they came to PH to civilize the Filipinos, a condescending if not arrogant attitude.

I was appraised of the situation within the campus and of the arduous efforts of Filipino Dominicans to make their dent in a context where Jurassic colonial tradition was still strong. By the 1990s the innovative Filipino Dominicans and UST professors were finally making headway. As a result, the UST made it to the top 200 universities in the Asia-Pacific in the late 1990s.

Research institutions have since been evolving within the present campus in the Sampaloc district. Some professorial pals of mine, who were products of the U.P. and DSLU and who took up doctorates in top universities abroad, have decided to base themselves in UST. They are now taking up the cudgels of re-engineering their respective departments, thanks to the new policy environment crafted by Filipino Dominicans.

Finally, as UST’s professorial pool has been up-scaling their research & development capabilities, building research institutions and generating research & publications products, the university is on the way to move UST to the next level, which is that of ‘world university’ status. I am highly supportive of the re-engineering, even as I’m confident the university will get there in the foreseeable future.

[Philippines, 15 February 2011]

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PHILIPPINE ECONOMY 46th LARGEST WORLDWIDE, CAN GO UP SOME MORE

February 16, 2011

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Let me continue to tackle the matter of glad tidings for my beloved Philippines. I feel the exuberance and optimism of fellow East Asians who wish to share the joy of the growing economies we have here with the rest of the world.

For this note, I will focus on the Philippine’s national income, an update particularly of the Gross Domestic Product or GDP and the Gross National Product or GNP. The Philippines is one of ten (10) members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations or ASEAN, a grouping of cooperating nations that will integrate economically in 2015. PH’s growth pattern contributes in no small measures to ASEAN’s growing economic might.

In 2009 PH ended the year with a GDP of around PH P7.67 Trillions. Nominally, that translated to around U.S. $186 Billions. At that time, Net Factor Income from Abroad or NFIA, derived largely from overseas remittances and offshore operations, was around$17 Billions. GNP, which adds up the GDP and NFIA, totaled $203 Billions more or less for that year.

2009 was quite a bad year, as the Great Recession of the Northern economies affected PH by a lowering of the merchandise exports. GDP grew so minimally at a mere 1.5% that analysts thought it couldn’t rebound soon enough. The forecast for 2010 was around 5-6% growth range, already considered a very optimistic forecast.

2010 proved to be a relatively bountiful year for PH, as it grew 7.5% during the first three (3) quarters alone. Election spending pumped up the growth rate to a certain extent, while exports and imports grew up at fat sums as the Northern economies were able to re-absorb higher volumes of merchandise imports. The yearend growth could be at 7% more or less.

A figure of $13 Billion is therefore expectedly added to the old 2009 GDP, to yield a 2010 GDP figure of U.S.$199 Billions. NFIA, based on overseas remittances, ends up at $18 Billions, so the GNP for 2010 stands at a least figure of $ $217 Billions of nominal income.

Manufacturing and services are proving to be the most consistent growth drivers of PH economy on the production side. Agriculture turns out to have a weak performance carried over yet from the 2009 incidence of the strong typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng.

With infrastructures and energy gearing up for larger projects, the growth will be sustained at a very positive level, ranging in the area of 6-7% for 2011. Exports will be sustained at upscale rate, and so will be imports. So we expect excitement in PH growth for 2011. We just hope that agriculture will be able to catch up and breach the 5% growth target at least, then sustain it at that level for the long term.

Consumption-wise, domestic consumption has gone up at an appreciable trend for 2010. Overseas remittances continued to sustain driving up domestic consumption. Private consumption was at all-time high, which contributed to heated retail sales of past 10% and housing & realty continuing its dynamic trend. Government consumption is the one that needs catching up here, a sluggish pattern that is a carry over of past years’ trends yet.

Accordingly, PH garnered the 46th largest economy out of the 200+ nations worldwide in terms of nominal income. At that position, it is clear that PH is among the middle income countries, or that it is way out of the old ‘poor country’ status it had till the years 2002-‘03 when the middle income status was attained.

As the Northern economies are going through stagnation, it is best that PH should target higher growth rates and attain them decisively to be able to move up the ladder of prosperity. In a decade’s time, PH can facilely surpass the performance of European countries one after the other, till it can reach the level of Italy’s or France’s economy as early as 2025.

I am optimistic that in the long run, PH can breach the No. 30 largest economy worldwide. The momentum of growth and prosperity is already there, and a large labor force is proving great as harbinger of wealth production. A large population, with a rising middle class, is also contributing immensely to sustaining consumption in the long run.

As early as 2030, PH can be on the Top 25 economies and maybe even better. PH economy should better double every seven (7) years or so for a straight twenty-one (21) years to be able to make it to the top. When it does so, ASEAN’s aggregate income will surpass Japan’s and possibly the USA’s and EU’s. Let’s all look forward to seeing that day come in the future.

[Philippines, 12 February 2011]

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